Easy! 2 Steps To Understanding How Technology Use Impacts Kids

13 ways tech impacts kids
"Galit Breen is the guru for teaching kids to use the Internet responsibly."

— Leighann Adams, MultitaskingMama.com

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Screen Time Limits Success For The Most Reluctant Children

You already know you’re nagging too much.


That quick little reminding habit turned into Mom-dang-zilla the moment you decided it mattered.


The explaining.


The reminding.


The asking.


The whining.


…and that’s why you need to see what happened to Brody.



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About a year ago, I made some powerful changes to my limiting screen time strategy, and it wasn’t a total knockdown-dragout-shutdown. In fact, I changed just a few key things over just a few weeks, and peace around screen time in our home started to increase. 


The interesting thing isn’t that Brody’s screen time went down. There are lots of ways to make that happen. But usually if you want to decrease your child’s screen time, you have to double your saying “no” times … or at least really ramp up the ban hammer, right?


Well in this case, I started monitoring, nagging, and reminding less.


As in, I went from multiple reminders on the daily to being able to rely on a single conversation.


And in this post, you’ll learn the 4 things I did leading up to that several-week period and the 2 things I did at the end that took me from Chief Household Nagger to Savvy Relaxed Mama … with enough confidence in our new system that now?


Brody monitors his own screen time.


But before you can see exactly what I did (I promise, that’s coming!) you need to understand where we were, in the BEFORE.


When I decided to change how I was approaching screen time with Brody, I had already been talking to him about all of this “stuff” for two years, from approximately ages 5-7. I had tried timers. And limits. And reminders. I was leveraging my older daughters to help him walk away from the (Minecraft) screen. I had tried all the going advice out there and was stuck.


Success for me would have been a day with only one or two reminders, only one meltdown, and only one episode of 5 minutes online just turned into 20. I was stuck in this cycle for months. I followed all of the steps from parenting experts, therapists, and bloggers. I even delved deeply into what Steve Jobs and Bill Gates were quoted to recommend — stay low tech.


I wasn’t meeting my goal of the topic of screens, screen time, and screen time limits getting less air time in our home and I didn’t know why.


Now, having a child not restart her screen time timer every once in awhile or not throw too big of a fit when screen time was over for the day is nothing to sneeze at. But the problem was, I was in it full time (and had been for years). I was in a constant state of negotiation with him, and I was stuck.


So how did I start having Brody be on screens for LESS time per day while cutting my saying no and negotiating time in half?


Let’s start with the most important thing.


In this article:


I revealed to you the three things that might be holding you back from getting that coveted screen time balance for your child and from getting to a place where you're actually feeling good about your child's online use.


We also talked about four steps that will get most kids and moms right where they want to be with screen time limits.


Related: How to stop being the iPad police once and for all


And all of the above — both the mistakes and the fix — came down to directly teaching your child what she needs to know and what she needs to do, because obviously no one is born just knowing how to do these things. That would be way too easy, right? 


So in this article, what we're going to be talking about is:


What to do if you seem to be parenting the child who seems to be just a little bit harder to take to the system.


I totally had one of those kinds of kids, too, and I'm happy to say we did get there.


And today I'm going to reveal to you how we got there and how we still made it simple and manageable for both of us, even if it was trickier than for other families.


Before we dig in, I want to make sure that you get your new(ish) digital kid checklist. It lays out 9 things you can teach your child about having a healthy relationship with technology. It's like a modern roadmap, if you will, and you can get it by clicking right here.


If you'd like to listen to this information click here:


Otherwise, read on ... 


3 Kinds Of Reluctant Screen Time Balancers


First of all, let's define what exactly I mean by "trickier" or "reluctant" just so you know if this information applies to you or not. 


The first kind of kid that this information will be helpful for is the kid who just absolutely loves her online games. So I'm not just talking about liking it or thinking it's kind of cool, but she really, really loves it. She can talk to you about Minecraft for hours and hours (and hours!). She took to it like a fish to water or a bee to honey or a tired mom to your morning coffee ... whatever analogy you want to use is a-okay by me, but understand this: this child really, really loves her games.


The second kind of kid that this article will be helpful for is the kid who has an addictive personality. Now I'm not talking about an Internet addiction, I'm talking about kind of child who when she really gets into something, she really, really gets into it. For example, when she first started playing LEGOs, she was really into LEGOs. When she first started riding her bike, she wanted to be out there riding her bike every single day. And when she got introduced to an online game, she got really, really into that, too. 


And the third kind of kid that this information will be helpful for is the kid who you've introduced the idea of balancing her screen time and not having her sweet 'lil face buried in front of a device so much, but it just doesn't seem like it's sticking. Your mama gut, your intuition — which, by the way, is the most powerful thing that any parent has and you should always, always listen to it — but in this case, that powerful intuition is telling you that you're still a little bit too in this in order for it to be going the way that you want it to be.


So if you can relate to any of any of these three example children, then you are absolutely going to love this super actionable article because it's going to get you unstuck and un-frustrated, because I'm going to help you zoom out and see the long game of how this all works and how to simplify and streamline this process. Technology should not be making your parenting harder, amiright?


So, first things first.


Let's review the four steps.


These are the four things that you should be doing in order to help your child limit her screen time.


So the first one is meet your child right where she's at. What is she interested in doing, both online and off?


The second step is to set the expectation that she needs to weave between both of these kinds of activities. Being online is fine. Playing games is fine. She just can't do it all day long.


The third step is to help your child practice this weave because she's not born knowing how to do this. 


And the fourth step is a gradual release of responsibility. What I mean by this is that in the beginning you're in this process way more than you are at the end. You're going to release that responsibility onto her as she seems to understand it more and more.



I can feel you itching to ask me this question ... 


How long? How long will this all take?!


Hang in there, this detail is coming!


Read this first, because it's important:


In order to see the long game of how this works if you're feeling like you're stuck in one of these steps for a little bit longer than your friends or a little bit longer than it sounds like I'm explaining or a little bit longer than you feel in your intuition — in your gut — than it should be taking, I want you to think about this analogy:


Let's say you knew that you wanted to run a 10K in two years.


You'd have two choices.


In Path A, you could spend the next two years eating what you want and not worrying about exercising a whole lot until one year and maybe ... 364 days? Because that 10K is two years from now. It's way far away, and you don't need to worry about it yet.


Or, in Path B, you have your eye on the prize and you'd start training for maybe a one-mile run in the next few months, and then maybe a 5K a few months after that. And you learn about carbs and proteins and how they impact your body, and how stretching and resting are both so important. And you'd learn all of that and put it all into practice between now and then.


And the reason you would do this is so that you could get up and run that 10K in two years and be successful at it.


So which way would work better? 


Because you're savvy, you obviously know the answer.


Training and doing things in small steps at a time will always work better than doing it trial-by-fire and all at once.


This is the important part:


This fact holds true for teaching your child how to monitor her own screen time and for getting that balanced screen time habit in place.



So, if it feels harder or slower or like it's not working ...


And you should know that I've absolutely been there, too.


I had a child who this did all take longer to teach, and it did feel like we were moving at a slower pace than I had with my other two children. And I know that it's exhausting. And frustrating at times. And even draining on you personally.



If you've felt this way, know this:


It's not your fault.


Try this instead.


Plan on staying in steps one through three a little bit longer before you expect step four.


Now whatever you do, don't stop "training" and still expect this all to work in a few years! But don't stress about it either. Expect your child to be in the other stages longer.


And in fact, celebrate this.


Because if you're staying focused on teaching the skills, she's going to get there.


Just like training for that 10K, if you keep building up those skills you will get there. And also just like with that 10K, the training time is vital and healthy and important. And if you're not expecting the full release of responsibility in this moment right now, you will get there with your sanity in place.


And that matters.


A lot.


Because this is a long game.


So, this is exactly how this all went for my son Brody.


We stayed in those first three steps for almost three years, but it didn't feel difficult and I didn't feel like I was struggling with this every single day, because:


  1. I took the time to teach the first 3 steps.
  2. And I changed my expectations for when the gradual release of responsibility would be complete.


Once I did these two things, it felt like a weight lifted off of my shoulders.


And you should know that when he got there, it wasn't a big deal. There was no fanfare. He just looked at me like, "Yep, I know what to do. I know I need to go outside and ride my bike right now. What else are we going to talk about today?"


So it turns out that this doesn't have to be a stressor as long as you're using the right system which is teaching the skills AND holding your expectations in the right place.



So, there's a secret sauce to the teaching part of this.


Don't worry, I'm not going to leave you hanging. 


The secret sauce is called "Layered Learning" and this is how it works.


Layered Learning is what every successful teacher uses in her classroom, and the good news is that what works in classrooms works in homes.


So instead of keeping all of those lessons and conversations and skills to yourself and then one day expecting your child to drink from a fire hydrant and learn these skills all at one time, you're going to layer this learning so that it's both manageable and learnable for her and simplified for you.


Because technology should not be making parenting harder for you.


So where do you go with all this?


A few tips to nudge you in the right direction:



This what I mean by that:


There's an author I love named Anne Lamott who says that in order start writing a novel, you don't need to see exactly what will happen in chapter 22. You just need to put your fingers together in one inch-by-inch square and write what happens there. And then write the next inch, and the one after that. And before you know it, you've written that novel.




And in the case of screen time limits and balance ... 


You can get right where you want to be inch-by-inch as well.


* Awhile ago I wrote a really short piece for Mamalode Magazine about using the Inch-by-Inch process to help with Mama overwhelm. Read it here.


…and P.S.


What do you think Brody and I are doing with all the extra time we have on our hands now that we're not mired in negotiations and overwhelm?


We're laughing and talking together … so that we're CONNECTING in a deeper way, and making even more memories and having more of that grass-under-his-bare-feet childhood that I want for him. And that’s the goal. 




The concept of creating a healthy relationship with technology was born of my bestselling book Kindness Wins, a simple guide to teaching your child to be kind online. Because a world filled with tweens who use the Internet even just a 'lil more kindly? Is a better one, as far as I'm concerned.


Free Resources For You:


Read the first chapter of Kindness Wins for free by clicking right here or on the button below.




galit breen headshot.jpg

Hi, I'm Galit. (*My name is pronounced guh-leet + means little waves, like in the ocean.) I give you the tools you need to let your kids benefit from the amazing things the online world has to offer them and create a popsicle dripping, chapter book reading (in one sitting!), leaf crunching childhood that they deserve. Welcome, I'm so glad you're here. What can you expect from me? I spill it all right here.